🔍 CSI for coffee and cocoa

PLUS: Aquaculture startup nets a unicorn valuation, Ox Day's r-eel alternative, map of 13 plant cell culturing startups

If synthetic nitrogen fertiliser was invented today, it would probably be banned, because of both energy use in production, and pollution in usage. However, at this point, we are heavily addicted to it, for good reason - food security.

This week I caught up with NetZeroNitrogen’s CEO, Justin Hughes, following their $1.6M pre-seed round of funding.

There’s still a long way to go before sustainable alternatives are able to reach the scale and adoption of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers.

But by focusing on environmentally-friendly solutions that are both performance- and price-competitive, Hughes believes in a future where a global population of 10bn can be fed without costing the earth.

This Week in Food:

  • Can 200mg caffeine quench your thirst?

  • $137M VC fund launched by Coca-Cola

  • $10M CAD to advance AI in FoodTech

The Digest

📈 What’s up? Data from Circana shows that US private label dollar sales rose 8.2% to $108 billion during the first half of 2023, as consumers tightened household budgets.

📉 What’s down? US-based upcycled food producer Do Good Foods has filed for bankruptcy, citing economic headwinds.

⚡️The US Senate has called on the FDA to investigate the popular Prime Energy drink, which is marketed to children and teenagers to quench thirst despite containing 200mg of caffeine.

🤖 Researchers at MIT and NVIDIA are building technology to optimise kitchen robotics precision, developing a task and motion planning algorithm to help robotic systems solve mobile manipulation problems in difficult environments.

🇩🇪 10 of Germany’s most promising FoodTech startups to watch.

New in Funding

Image Credit: eFishery

🦄 Indonesian aquaculture startup eFishery raised $200 million in a Series D funding round led by 42XFund. It claims to be the first startup in the global aquaculture industry to pass a $1 billion valuation, and wants to reach one million aquaculture ponds in Indonesia with its smart feeding system by 2025 and expand overseas. 👉 Here’s where the idea came from.

🌾 Aphea.Bio, based in Belgium, secured €70 million Series C funding. It provides novel science-based solutions to support sustainable agriculture, with a focus on developing microbial strains that improve plant nutrient uptake.

🍫 New Zealand-based Oritain raised $57 million Series C funding to expand its forensic product traceability platform, designed to verify the origin of everything from cocoa to coffee.

💸 Protein Industries Canada is offering $10 million CAD to support food tech projects working with artificial intelligence to improve plant-based food production, to help accelerate the commercialisation of new foods and ingredients while making Canada’s plant-based sector more efficient and sustainable.

✍️ Parisian fintech finres raised €4.1 million in a round led by SpeedInvest for its AI-assisted decision-making platform which underwrites climate and price risks to support organisations and governments in their investments in the agricultural sector, in order to strengthen resilience to climate change.

🎢 Get up to speed on all 11 funding rounds this week including precision fermentation cheese, nitrogen alternative for plants and alcohol-free spirits.

Perfect Day’s next moves

Image Credit: Perfect Day

📉 Precision fermentation pioneer Perfect Day is planning to sell off its consumer brands in order to focus on its B2B operations. The startup is also now describing itself as a producer of whey from fermentation, rather than animal-free whey, and is expanding into the hybrid dairy category, partnering with sports supplements brand Unico Nutrition to launch what they claim is the first-ever hybrid protein powder, Apollo II.

🏭 US-based Liberation Labs has broken ground on its first precision fermentation production facility. It features a fermentation capacity of 600,000 litres and will produce bio-based proteins and other building block ingredients for CPG companies and industrial manufacturers.

🧫 Californian startup Calysta is using a patented fermentation platform to convert methane into single-cell proteins, which it describes as “protein without limits”.

🇦🇺 Australia’s Magic Valley Pty. Ltd and US-based Biocellion SPC are partnering to optimise the efficiency of cultivated meat production by enhancing bioreactor design.

🍳 Germany’s Cultimate Foods hosted a demo tasting at ProVeg Incubator of their product called CultiFat, featured in hybrid burgers. Take a closer look.

Plant Based

Image Credit: SimpliiGood

🇮🇱 Israeli microalgae startup SimpliiGood unveiled its spirulina-based chicken alternative, which it claims offers the same nutritional profile as conventional chicken.

🇸🇪 Sweden’s Mycorena has partnered with a number of plant-based industry leaders, including Rebl Eats, Meeat Food Tech Oy, Revo, and RIP Foods, to launch its mycoprotein-based products into key European markets.

🍗 Colorado-based mycelium meat producer Meati Foods is collaborating with AI company PIPA to expand its comprehension of mycelium’s health benefits and identify possibilities for new products.

🇯🇵 Japan’s Nissin Foods Holdings Co. released plant-based “kabayaki” grilled eel, made with three layers to reproduce the fluffy texture of an eel's white meat and fatty part between its meat and skin, for this year's Day of the Ox.

🥩 Beyond Meat is expanding retail availability for its Beyond Steak product to 14,000 retail locations across the US.

🧀 South Korean plant-based cheese producer Armored Fresh announced its latest product: “rich and creamy” oat milk cheese slices for foodservice, designed to cater for those who can’t consume other vegan cheeses due to nut allergies.

Big Food

Image Credit: Melodea

🍲 Barrier coatings producer Melodea debuted MelOx NGen, a barrier product specifically engineered to allow for the recyclability of plastic food packaging, which it says maintains food freshness and substantially reduces plastic waste.

🥤 Coca-Cola and eight of its bottling partners from around the world have formed a $137.7 million venture capital fund to focus on sustainability investments within packaging, heating and cooling, facility decarbonisation, distribution and the supply chain.

🛒 Online supermarket Ocado has opened the doors to its first robotic warehouse in Asia in partnership with Japanese retailer Aeon. The warehouse offers a 50,000 SKU product range, Smart Cart function, and one-hour delivery slots.

🍕 Nestlé announced an initiative to help bring regenerative agriculture practices to wheat farms within its DiGiorno pizza brand supply chain, since nearly two-thirds of its global greenhouse gas emissions come from sourcing ingredients.

🍜 British instant noodle brand Pot Noodle, owned by Unilever, is set to trial a new 90% paper pot design, made with FSC certified paper, in an exclusive deal with Tesco supermarket.

Trends: Plant Cell Culturing

Your morning latte, brewed without beans. A fave chocolate bar, produced with cocoa grown in a lab. Fruit and veg produced in a lab? Enter plant cell culturing.

🔎 Discover in the full FoodHack+ Report:
- 2x case studies (Celleste Bio, Novella)
- The why, the challenges and the figures behind the space
- List of 13 companies working on the farming of the future

Find out more about how plant cell culture techniques offer numerous opportunities for the food industry to improve crop production, develop novel food ingredients, and contribute to sustainable agriculture practices.

From the Community

🔥 Level up your career in FoodTech:

☀️ Enjoy some FoodTech tourism! Meet the local FoodTech community this summer in Toronto (20th July) and Vienna (3rd August).

💰 $100k in non-dilutive funding is up for grabs in this World Food Programme challenge.

💡 22 things learned from scaling a successful startup.

🍦 A year of ice cream delivery is just 1 of the perks in Unilever’s startup competition.

🦞 Just for fun: I carrot taste the difference.

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Curated by Nicola and Laura 

Until next time - Stay Hungry